Panel Paper: The South African Child Support Grant and Its Impacts

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 3:40 PM
Hanover B (Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Carolyn Heinrich1, John Hoddinott2, Michael Samson3, Kenneth Mac Quene3, Ingrid van Niekerk3, Nils Riemenschneider4 and Bryant Renaud3, (1)University of Texas at Austin, (2)International Food Policy Research Institute, (3)Economic Policy Research Institute, (4)Oxford Policy Management

The Child Support Grant (CSG) reaches over ten million South African children each month and is a central component of social protection in South Africa.  The broad goal of the CSG is to reduce poverty and vulnerability by diminishing the exposure of children and households to risk and increasing their capacity to protect themselves against life cycle hazards and shocks that threaten their livelihood.  The program was first implemented in 1998 and has undergone many changes, including increases in the size of the cash transfer and the age of eligibility (from age 7 to 17 years) over time.

 Because the CSG is nearly universal in its coverage and most prior studies have relied primarily on household-level data to evaluate its effects, it has been difficult to assess the impact of the CSG on the individuals it is supposed to benefit most, children. In this study, we examine the effects of early versus late enrollment in the CSG on the well-being and cognitive development of children as well as the impact of the recent extension of the CSG to adolescents.  In particular, we address the following two research questions: (1) How has early versus late enrollment affected the well-being and cognitive development of children? and (2) How are critical life course events of adolescents (schooling, labor force participation, risky behaviors) affected by the extension of the CSG?  We use data collected in five South African provinces in 2010 and 2011 from households with children aged 10 years old who enrolled in the CSG either between 0 and 18 months or between 5 and 9 years and data from adolescents between ages 15 and 17 years to address the above questions.  We employ a quasi-experimental, mixed-methods approach that primarily relies on differences-in-differences propensity score matching and generalized propensity score matching to adjust for potential selection in the timing and length of CSG receipt by children. 

The results of the analysis of CSG impacts on young children and adolescents suggest the importance of both early receipt of the CSG by children and receipt of the CSG in the household at the time of adolescence. Early enrollment of children increased grade attainment, especially for girls, and health benefits associated with earlier CSG enrollment appeared to persist at least to age ten. Early CSG receipt and grant receipt in adolescence protects against (or reduces their engagement in) the risky behaviours of sexual intercourse, alcohol use, drug use and criminal activity and  reduces the number of sexual partners and early pregnancy in adolescence as well as absences from school (particularly for males).   In addition to generating the most recent evidence on the impacts of the CSG, this study produces information on policy effectiveness that is critical for other African countries (and developing countries elsewhere) that are in the early stages of initiating these types of social transfer programs.